In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, the French government reacted by bombarding ISIS in Syria and asking for the application of article 42.7 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU). Both measures aim to suggest that Europe is facing external threats, which can be fought and solved in terms of security and defense policies.
Together with the idea of changing the Schengen Agreement and the unilateral decision of not respecting the EU budget criteria, France (and the rest of the EU member states) are acting nationalistically, while the only possible answer today is more Europe, not less. Also, while no strategy is certain to a ensure victory against ISIS, treating it simply as an external security problem is very likely to fail.
First, the terrorists who attacked Paris were home-grown: they were European citizens and held European passports. According to Radio Free Europe, the per capita number of foreign fighters who joined ISIS is 40 terrorists per million inhabitants from Belgium, 30 from Sweden and Denmark, 20 from France, Austria and Netherlands; 10 from Norway and the UK. Together, the European continent provided over 5,000 fighters to ISIS, compared to about 100 coming from the United States.
There is clearly something wrong with Europe's integration and education policies. What makes it even more troublesome is that the higher numbers of fighters come from countries long considered at the forefront of integrating policies.
While being "all French," the West showed that there is clearly an "us and them" problem: how come we were not all Russians (as if they deserved the plane bombing after intervening in Syria), Lebanese, Kenyans, Yazidis, Kurds, Yemenis or, today, Malis? Over 32,000 people died of terrorism last year, but we only seem able to mourn those in our capitals. This "us and them" was noted and it is not likely to help mutual understanding.
Second, the immigration crises and ISIS are the direct result of decades of foreign policies essentially based on the principle of "the enemy of the moment is my friend." Suffice to remember how Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were originally creatures of the West. The former Baathists - who are said to be leading ISIS - were ousted from Iraq together with Saddam when the West was "absolutely certain" that he possessed weapons of mass destruction - an "intelligence mistake" as Tony Blair recently defined it. Not to mention military intervention in Libya, a unilateral decision of former French President and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy, hastily transformed into a NATO operation because France did not even have enough ammunition. According to NATO, Operation Unified Protector "successfully concluded on 31 October 2011".
Third, what clearly failed in Paris was intelligence gathering and sharing: several of the Paris terrorists had been stopped, or even arrested, by the police - in Italy, France and Belgium - but nobody bothered to connect the dots. The problem is not changing or tightening Schengen: it is pooling and circulating intelligence, as HREU Federica Mogherini also stressed. It will be interesting to see if the European Parliament will now change its long standing opposition to the sharing of personal data.
Finally, use and misuses of the Treaty of the European Union, Europe's nearer thing to a Constitution. Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated that France will not be respecting the EU budgetary rules because of the forthcoming security and military expenses. The Commission - he added - will have to understand. Allowing non-compliance with the EU budgetary rules because of military expenditures - while this was denied to Southern countries to help exit the economic crisis - will not resonate well with Europeans, while it will play the game of the rising right-wing parties.
France's request to call for article 42.7 TEU is also poorly chosen; instead it would have been proper to invoke art 222 TEU. According to art. 42.7 TEU, "If a Member State is the victim of an armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have toward it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defense policy of certain Member States."
Article 222 TEU is instead called the "Solidarity Clause": "The Union and its Member States shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a Member States is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster. The Union shall mobilize all the instruments at its disposal, including the military resources made available by the Member States."
When asked about what the unanimous approval of 42.7 TEU would mean, a high level European diplomat responded: "nothing; it is just political". In reality, the different is substantial. While both articles contemplate the use of military force, art. 222 TEU was specifically designed after Madrid 2004 to enable mutual help in case of a terrorists attack or disaster, while art. 42.7 TEU was essentially meant to cover non-NATO EU Member States in case of military aggression.
Significantly, art. 42.7 TEU is located in the "intergovernmental" section of the Treaty, while the solidarity clause is located in the "Community" part. Net of Euro-gibberish, this essentially means that under 42.7 TEU some member states can decide not to help, while under 222 TEU they would supposedly all be called to contribute; secondly, and most importantly, under art. 222 TEU the European Commission would take the lead, while under art. 42.7 TEU the member states keep their hands free.
It is evident that so far "hands free" have only led to disasters; if we want to succeed, it is time to have more Europe, not less.